Focusing on guns, environment

Campaign Ad Watch

October 22, 2002|By Howard Libit

Democrat Kathleen Kennedy Townsend began airing an advertisement over the weekend titled "Choices That Matter," focusing on the issues of gun control and environmental protection. The ad is airing in the Baltimore and Washington television markets.

What the ad says: The 30-second spot begins with the words "Choices That Matter" on the screen, as a male announcer reads those words:

"First, Kathleen Kennedy Townsend has proposed expanding ballistic fingerprinting of guns to assault weapons and other firearms to help police solve crimes." Images flash on the screen of assault weapons displayed on a table, as well as Townsend chatting with police officers.

"Bob Ehrlich criticized Maryland's laws for ballistic fingerprinting, saying they've done nothing to reduce gun crimes, and he would consider repealing them," the announcer says. A picture of Ehrlich is accompanied by newspaper headlines and a written quote from Ehrlich saying: "They've done nothing to reduce gun crimes."

"Second, the environment," the announcer says, as images pop up of the Bay Bridge and Townsend walking through the woods.

"Townsend: a detailed plan to protect the Chesapeake Bay," the announcer says. "Ehrlich: In Congress he voted to permit the dumping of industrial waste in the bay."

The announcer concludes: "Choices that matter. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend."

The facts: Townsend proposed last week expanding Maryland's ballistic fingerprinting program to include regulated legal assault rifles.

Maryland's program collects only the shell casings of handguns sold in the state, letting state police create a database in which they can compare their records to the markings of shell casings collected at crime scenes.

Although the ad says that Townsend's proposal would "help police solve crimes," there is little evidence so far to back up that claim. Since the program became law, authorities have used it to match only two guns to crimes but have not charged anyone. Police say it will become more useful as the database grows.

Ehrlich has said he would seek to review the effectiveness of some of the state's gun laws. If the programs are working, he would seek to expand them; and if they're not, he would try to find out why.

On the environment, Townsend's 32-page "Blueprint for Maryland's Future" includes two pages of ideas, including working to implement the Chesapeake Bay agreement of 2000. Townsend has been endorsed by most leading environmental conservation groups.

This spot is at least the third one from the Townsend campaign to accuse Ehrlich of supporting the dumping of industrial waste in the bay. It refers to procedural votes from 1995 and 1999 that didn't specifically mention the bay but related generally to water protections.

In 1995, Ehrlich voted against a motion to send a "clean water" bill back to committee to add tougher language regarding the discharge of industrial pollution. He supported a 1999 bill that environmentalists said would have made it harder to enforce water regulations on companies.

Analysis: With Election Day only two weeks away, Townsend's ad is focusing on two issues - gun control and the environment.

The topic of gun control has become particularly significant with the series of sniper shootings in the Washington area.

On both issues, Townsend is trying to remind Democrats - who outnumber registered Republicans 2-to-1 in Maryland - that there are differences between the two parties, trying to boost support among voters who she thinks ought to be supporting her on Election Day.

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